Video Call Courtesy: 5 Tips for Professional Video Chats

We’ve all seen them and perhaps we’ve been them at one point or another…the people who look foolish in video calls and don’t know it! Amid these uncertain times, video chats have become a critical part of how business is being done. It’s critical for any young professional to start getting serious about how you look over video. Below are a few fun tips on how to manage your image when interacting over a business video call and some lessons learned from the myriad of amateur mistakes made during the COVID pandemic!  

1.     Appearance Matters!

  • Is it too much to ask for you to just act like you are meeting face-to-face and dress accordingly? For the gentlemen, even if you are tempted to go for business on the top and party on the bottom (shorts, sweats, etc), don’t risk it. There have been too many scenarios for error here and it really doesn’t take that much more effort to just complete the appropriate attire. You can forget the shoes, but for everyone’s sake, wear the proper lower-bottom attire! You never know when an angle can change or perhaps what you miss on your small screen on your computer, will show up on the BIG screen from a conference room you are dialing into. Trust us, we’ve seen it. For the ladies, depending on the camera angle, watch those skirts. If you are doing a video call on a couch, you may want to check all angles with your outfit prior to turning on that “video enabling” icon!
  •  If a call is longer than anticipated you can start to look oily or sweaty – ensure you have a damp cloth or at the very least, close your video and take a quick restroom break to refresh and not blind everyone with your forehead shine. For ladies, make-up counts even more in these scenarios, because your makeup can enhance your features or highlight your flaws in a video call. Take the time to see what lighting you will be in while on the call, and plan accordingly. Remember, makeup with spf tends to shine a lot more.

2.     Background (including Zoom Backgrounds)

  • Choose a background that communicates business. If you don’t have a bookshelf or office as a background, a blank wall is your best bet. Please, no bedroom backgrounds, no weird wall décor, and for goodness sake, avoid having an open background where roommates or significant others could walk by. If you are conducting the call at home or an open setting at work, the chances of an accidental cameo are high. Video-bombing is real, and it may be more embarrassing for you than funny. Ok…maybe a little funny. 
  • If you’re using Zoom, a virtual background might be a decent option. If you choose a virtual background, please pick one that looks professional! A QUALITY photo of a home office or regular office setting may work. Don’t choose settings that make you look like you are in outer space like Han Solo or about to sip a margarita on a beach after the call is over or something equally unprofessional. They look silly, and so do you. 

3.     Distractions

  • This is hardest one to avoid, but it just takes a little bit of prep work. Distractions come in many forms. This could be:
    • Yourself – pay attention. If you are on video, the likelihood that someone is watching you is very high. If you have to go to the restroom, the professional thing to do is to excuse yourself (if applicable) and then turn your video AND sound off. Don’t just walk out of the video call, because it’s distracting and could be viewed as disrespectful. You wouldn’t walk out of a meeting in the office so don’t just walk out of a virtual meeting. Turning off video and sound prevents displaying any video or sound you don’t want to share with the group. 
    •  Others – let those around you know when your video call is taking place. Ask them to avoid noise during that time and be respectful of your meeting. If you can’t, you may want to make alternative arrangements to be in a secluded, quiet location. You may think it’s cute when your dog jumps in the screen but to everyone else… it’s a distraction!

4.     Angles

  •  Angles are key. They should be straight on and stable. If you are using a laptop, you may want to consider propping your screen on a few books for a straight-on angle, rather than the double chin angle you’ve been using. If you are using your phone, make sure you have a prop to hold it up (many inexpensive options online), and you are not holding it in your hand. If it’s in your hand, the angle is never flattering and you are likely to be moving it all over the place, which is also distracting and unprofessional. Your video should be stagnant, straight-facing and constant. 

5.     Lighting

  • Lighting does make a big difference. Most rooms are not lit well for video calls, even with natural light. You may want to buy an inexpensive camera light if you are frequently doing video calls, conducting them at a later time, or do not have natural light in the room you are using. A dark video does not communicate professionalism, so take the time to prep. The camera in your computer does make a difference, and if you plan to do a lot of online calls, you may want to look into the best computer cameras for this purpose. 

Hopefully these tips will help you as we all start to navigate this new journey of business online and personal interactions with video. I know we all have made these mistakes at one time or another, but with a little attention to detail and preparation we can all master this new professional avenue!